Your Health Guide For Staying Well While Traveling Abroad

stay healthy while traveling

Dodging polio or malaria while overseas starts with prevention. The following is a preventative guide for staying healthy while traveling abroad and tips on what to do if you get sick in a foreign country.

Trip Prep Basics

  • Learn what you’re up against. Crossing an ocean to a foreign land can expose your health to vulnerabilities and risk for infection. Learn about your destination by accessing the Consular Information Program’s Country Specific Information by the State Department’s Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management (ACS). Click on the map to see the health and medical considerations of your destination country.
  • Get vaccinations and immunizations. Catching measles, mumps or rubella can seriously wreck your trip. Get the appropriate shots to prevent diseases such as the food and water-borne hepatitis A. Make sure your vaccination records are up-to-date and visit Travelers’ Health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about travel-related diseases and essential country-specific vaccines and medicines. The World Health Organization also provides a health profile for WHO countries.
  • Visit your doctor or a travel health expert at a specialized travel medicine clinic. After researching your destination country, talk to a specialist about your current health status, individual risk factors and mandatory or recommended vaccines. You’ll also need an International Certificate of Vaccination, also known as Yellow Card.
  • Check your health insurance policy and available medical services. Imagine paying around $10,000 for a medical evacuation. You’ll want to prepare for an unexpected illness or accident with short-term travel medical insurance. Ask what type of medical services are available during an emergency while dealing with a foreign medical system. The U.S. Passports & International Travel and Bureau of Consular Affairs site offers a list of U.S.-based travel insurance companies for overseas travelers. The CDC also details everything you need to know about travel health insurance and medical evaluation insurance.
  • Prepare prescription medications. Ask your physician for proper medical documentation or records and carry medications in your carry-on bag in their originally prescribed containers. Make sure to bring emergency refills, extra doses and the contact information of your doctor and pharmacist.

If You Get Sick While Abroad

  • Use your tablet for research. For instance, diarrhea is a common health problem, and 30 to 70 percent of travelers experience it in the high-risk regions of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and South America. Before you seek medical attention for a non-emergency health problem, look into MeMD online for a diagnosis of common medical ailments and treatments like diarrhea, allergies, earache, fever, and nausea. If your problem persists or worsens, consult professional medical help.
  • Visit a pharmacy for a diagnosis of run-of-the-mill conditions and remedies. European travel expert Rick Steves also recommends that European travelers go to a hospital for life-threatening emergencies and clinics for non-emergency health problems. If you’re charged a fee, you may have to pay out of pocket, despite having medical insurance. Return home with a copy of the bill to file a claim for reimbursement, and contact your travel insurance as soon as possible to report the injury.
  • Contact the US embassy. Register with the US embassy in your destination country by creating an account with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Consular officers can help provide medical assistance and even aid in funds transfers. Medical care resources recommended by the CDC also include the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (you’ll need a membership) and the Joint Commission International.